The 1994 kidding season was unlike any other. I lost more than sixteen baby goats and my only registered doe. Twelve of the offspring (feti) were born premature three to four weeks before their due date, and four were two sets of twins that were trampled due to stress in their mothers. One single doeling was born ten days early and survived. The cause? Something called Toxoplasmosis. It seems to be a difficult thing to detect, especially in enough time to decrease losses. But the main culprit appears to be a cat (or some times a rodent) who acts as a carrier for the Nematodirus (thread-necked) worm, and keeps the infectious cycle going, urinating in the bedding or floor covering. Regular worming is not effective enough.
As I expected about twenty does to kid, I was not unusually alarmed when I discovered a single aborted fetus from a doe who had previous health problems. But the next one sent a warning. I figured she would have triplets as she had done the previous year, but I was shocked when I found them aborted prematurely only two hours after I had checked the herd. My first action was to check the mother, who was fine, but didn't have any milk as she normally did. Then I collected the feti and put them in separate plastic bags, labeled with info about the doe, and put them in the freezer, as my vet had suggested.
Because I just had the herd tested for Brucellosis and TB, my vet wanted to wait for those results before jumping into doing lab tests. So I waited. And the aborting continued. I searched every article of every goat-related publication and animal health books for clues as to what could be wrong, and determined that it was an "abortion storm", but there are many causes for this. So I began to eliminate some of the possibilities; I vaccinated and revaccinated, wormed and wormed again, and increased my vigilance in watching the herd. A few days later, another set of triplets was aborted.
As I had not found any of the aborted feti immediately after birthing, I didn't know if they had been born alive or dead. But I knew that the mothers were trying to do their job of cleaning them up and so far there were no retained placentas. I put a nursery monitor in the barn so I could listen. I wasn't getting very much sleep, either, visiting the barn during the night. I went to the barn one morning and found aborted triplets and a dead mother doe (registered), who had shown no previous signs of her fate. She was one of my favorites, and I cried as I carried her and then her three offspring to the truck to be taken for autopsy. She had died of toxic shock. He was kind enough not to charge for his services. He mentioned that does who have carry triplets have more stress.
It was very frustrating; I could not find two veterinarians to recommend the same course of action, even though I consulted with four of them. One told me that there was nothing I could do to remedy the situation but could prevent recurrence by getting rid of the cat. Another told me that a triple dose of Safeguard given three days in a row would break the cycle and prevent further loss of life. One told me he could run lab tests, but it probably wouldn't do any good anyway (at least he was honest).
As I knew how long the buck had been with the does and made notes on breeding behavior, I had a pretty good idea of most of the due dates. When I got to the last two weeks, I felt my herd had reached a "safety" period for a chance of survival. But then I had two sets of twins born, and the does were so stressed from Toxo that they trampled their kids. It was heartbreaking; they had survived the hardest part.
Now that it's over, I know there was very little that could have been done after the problem came about. But I strongly warn all goat owners/raisers to use control methods (NO CATS!) before it's too late to stop the problem. This next kidding season should be easy for us compared to what we went through this year.
P.S. The Toxo. Gondi "bateria" can live for 18 months in the soil. It is destroyed by hot dry weather, boiling (try to do your whole barnyard!), and is almost impossible to get rid of. The only time T. Gondi is dangerous is when your goats are bred. When they have been exposed to it (and possibly aborted) they shouldn't be susceptible to it again. However, a reduced abortion "storm" following years may be the only improvement noticed, since previously aborted goats have resistance to it. Young goats (who weren't bred before) may have to go through it.
Spanish, Meat & Dairy Goats
Debbie & Richard Dahl
Route 1, Box 147-2
Colcord, Oklahoma 74338
Telephone (918) 326-4291